High School Grad Rates: Better For Some

It’s that time of year when the discussion in education circles turns to graduation rates—a key measure of how we’re doing to ensure that our nation’s children have at least a high school education.

Overall, the news is good. The U.S. Department of Education reports an all-time high with 81% of the class of 2013 graduating on time—the latest group for which data is available. That’s an increase of 2 percentage points since 2011, when states were first required to calculate graduation rates.

Students With Disabilities Fall Short

But while the national on-time graduation rate is higher than ever, there are large disparities within certain segments of the student population, including students with learning and other disabilities. A recent article in Education Week reports the following:

Students with disabilities, the focus of Diplomas Count 2015, have a 62 percent on-time graduation rate, which is 19 percentage points lower than the overall national rate. Arkansas has the highest on-time graduation rate for students with disabilities (80 percent). In every state, graduation rates are lower for students with disabilities than for the student population at large. The largest gap—53 percentage points—is found in Mississippi, which has the nation’s lowest on-time graduation rate for students with disabilities (23 percent). Alabama has the smallest gap at 3 percentage points.

Other Disparities

There are also major discrepancies between states. (At 90% Iowa has the highest graduation rate; D.C. has the lowest with 63%.).

For students in low-income families the on-time graduation rate is 73%, or 8 percentage points lower than the national average.

The graduation rate for students with limited English proficiency is only 61%.

Among racial and ethnic groups the variation is wide: The rate for Asians is 89%, while the rate for American Indians is 70%. And, according to the Education Week article, “Although a large body of research suggests that black and Hispanic students have made large gains over the past decade, they continue to graduate at lower rates than Asians and whites.”